Knowing what we're focusing on can impact our lives dramatically. Here are 4 truths about what we spend our time thinking about.

  1. Focusing solely on ourselves makes life difficult. That’s not necessary.
  2. Focusing on bad stuff leads to more bad stuff. That's destructive.
  3. Increased perspective broadens my focus. That brings understanding.
  4. What I focus on is my choice.

Focusing solely on ourselves makes life difficult

That’s not necessary

It’s easier to run when I’m not focused on myself. If I enter my self-absorbed world, I think about my breathing, my stomach, my pace, my distance, and how my body feels. Boring! I can truly spend an entire hour thinking about whether or not I need to go . . . um . . . #2.  Not kidding. My stomach hurts. Oh no, maybe I’ll have to go and there won’t be a porta potty around! What did I eat last night? Yesterday? This morning? Hmmm . . . I shouldn’t have eaten that. I should eat more X, Y or Z next time. Then my stomach wouldn't hurt. I wouldn't feel the urge to . . . go. Seriously, Cathy, is this productive? You ate what you ate and your stomach feels like it feels. You are 2 miles from a toilet, . . . SO DEAL! It’s all the self-focus that causes me pain, not the pain itself.

Focusing on bad stuff leads to more bad stuff

This is destructive

Have you ever gone down the rabbit hole of negative thinking becoming lost to reality? One thing leads to another and pretty soon he’s dead and buried and you’re greeting people at the funeral? You can tell that you’ve gone too far if you stop and realize that to verbalize your thoughts would be terribly embarrassing.

Here’s how it goes. Suzy isn’t home from school yet. Where could she be? I’ve always warned her about strangers but she never listens. She probably took a ride home from school with that hipster Bobby Evans. She could be smoking pot or doing meth. No, it’s worse than that. I’ll bet she got enticed to get in a van with Ted Bundy’s evil twin! How did he convince such a smart girl to get in his van? I knew I should have insisted she take karate! I’m the worst mother ever! The rest of the kids will never forgive me for her death. They won’t be able to cope. They’ll probably all end up in jail or an insane asylum because of what I’ve done!

Do you see how this is a waste of time? Focusing on the negative is the sign of a fearful mind. Negative thinking leads to more negative thinking. In the meantime, reality marches on regardless of all the crazy stuff I’ve created in my head. When Suzy gets home with a big smile on her face because her friends surprised her with a monster cookie, she’s greeted by a mom with worry written all over her face. She wonders what she’s done wrong. Even though I’m relieved she’s home, I scold her for not calling me to tell me she was going to be 5 minutes later than I expected. All because I focused on the negative.

Increased perspective broadens my focus

This brings understanding

As children, we focused on our parents who were necessary for our survival. As we grew, we focused both on our friends and on those we perceived as our enemies. In adolescence, we focused on other’s perceptions of us and sometimes allowed that to determine our self-worth.  As we matured, we learned to focus on those who needed help in addition to our own needs.  As adults, we also learned to focus on love which requires us to take the focus off ourselves and place it on another. 

Full maturity comes when we realize we are separate from others and no longer need to compare or judge. We can focus on issues instead of individuals and charity instead of competition.

Those around us can enrich our lives if we let them. What we focus on will determine our outlook. As we broaden our focus by looking at different sides of an issue along with others besides ourselves, we gain understanding.

What I focus on is my choice

Where I look and what I focus on us up to me. Let’s say I visit the Grand Canyon but spend most of my time looking at my cell phone. I’ll have missed the beauty and grandeur of this natural wonder. It’s up to me.

I can go to a wedding and focus on how much I dislike the bridesmaid’s dresses and the awful food at the reception. I’ll have missed the magic of the moment when two people made a public commitment to love one another for life. I’ll walk away disappointed instead of joyful.

Or I can be on an airplane and focus on the screaming baby a few rows back. It will take concentration to focus on my destination, the people in the row I’m in, or the book I brought to read. It’s up to me. I can be irritated or calm depending on my focus.

Ultimately, my focus is up to me. No one makes me focus on the negative, it’s my choice. A joyful life is possible if I choose to focus on the positive. It’s always there. I just need to focus on it.

What I focus on and how it impacts my life is my choice.